Every city boasts some skeletons in its closet, and that includes "squeaky clean" Salt Lake City. One of the most perplexing mysteries in the book world is why more mystery novels haven't been set in the so-called "City of Saints," with its long and checkered criminal history. I'll be commenting on that past on my blog Down These Mean Streets. But on this page, you can find out more about the locations in Salt Lake City where City of Saints takes place. Please keep checking back, because other important Salt Lake City crime scenes - real and fictional - will be added regularly.
• The Pole Line Road (2700 West, near 3500 South, pictured in the map above). The Pole Line Road – now 2700 West – was once an isolated, sparsely inhabited part of Salt Lake Valley, consisting mostly of pastures and woods. It is here that Deputies Art Oveson and Roscoe Lund found the battered, broken and bloody body of Helen Kent Pfalzgraf. City of Saints, like the real-life murder upon which it was based – the brutal killing of Dorothy Dexter Moormeister – is set in 1930. Today, all of these years later, the area out around Pole Line Road is now part of Granger, which has been incorporated into the larger West Valley City. The area has changed a great deal, now boasting wide, busy streets, strip malls, fast food joints and suburbs.
• Keeley’s Ice Cream (55 South Main): Keeley’s is Art Oveson’s favorite ice cream joint and one of his regular haunts. For years, Keeley’s was a popular ice cream joint, with several locations in Salt Lake City (and in other Utah towns, such as Provo and Ogden). The Keeley’s that Art visits in City of Saints with “true crime” magazine writer Seymour Considine is located on Main Street, between South Temple and 100 South. It was a popular family hangout for years, brightly lit with lots of different kinds of candy and ice cream. Ice cream was a favorite delicacy of Utahns – then and now.
• The Salt Lake County Jail (451 South 200 East): In City of Saints, Deputy Art Oveson works out of the county jail with partner Roscoe Lund. Located across the street from the beautiful City and County Building (pictured here), the Salt Lake County Jail was widely regarded as an eyesore. Opened in 1910, the jail housed around 150 inmates and the offices of the Salt Lake County Sheriff. Sheriff Fred Cannon works in a lavish office inside of the building, desperately clinging to power with an election approaching.
• Saltair (approximately 15 west of Salt Lake City, on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake): Deputy Art Oveson drives out to the shore of the Great Salt Lake near the beloved Saltair Resort to investigate a homicide. Opened in 1893, Saltair – an extremely popular amusement park built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – is described by Art in City of Saints: “If Coney Island and Taj Majal could give birth to a runt offspring, it would be Saltair, a Persian-influenced fun park with rides, slides, games and eateries….” Saltair burned down in 1925 and the Mormons promptly built a similar yet more elaborate version of Saltair.
• Liberty Park (Between 500 and 700 East and between 900 South and 1300 South). Art and his family attend a Pioneer Day (July 24th) celebration on a bright, hot, sunny day in 1930. Pioneer day is huge in Salt Lake City – a massive, citywide celebration of the arrival of the earliest Mormon pioneers in 1847. During the Great Depression, thousands and thousands of Salt Lakers packed the park by day for picnics, rides, carnival booths and cotton candy, and at night they returned for massive fireworks shows.
• The Brooks Arcade (268 South State Street): In City of Saints, the Brooks Arcade is home to the office of the mysterious Dr. Hans Pfalzgraf, one of the prime suspects in the murder of his socialite wife, Helen Kent Pfalzgraf. Other tenants in the office complex included other doctors, dentists, a dressmaking school, the Politz Candy Company, a sandwich shop and an etiquette academy. A prominent Jewish entrepreneur financed the construction of the building in 1879, and it remains – to this day – a popular office complex in downtown Salt Lake City.
• The Isis Theater (65 East 300 South): Art Oveson makes a couple of visits to the Isis Theater, owned by a friend of his, to screen some mysterious reels of film related to the Helen Pfalzgraf murder case. The Isis – built in 1908, demolished in 1976 – was one of Salt Lake City’s cinema palaces. It enjoyed a reputation as one of Salt Lake City’s most popular movie houses. A 1935 advertisement grandiosely described it as “attractively and beautifully furnished, tastefully decorated and very comfortable in every way, pleasing to the eyes, restful to the tired nerves and jaded senses and here amid attractive surroundings you are entranced by the excellent and dreamy music and the world's greatest actors. You see romance, fiction and travel and all the various phases of human life are here depicted not only for the entertainment of the public, but as well for the education and intellectual uplift of the race.”
• The Newhouse Hotel (southwest corner of 400 South and Main Street): Like the Isis Theater, the Newhouse Hotel, alas, is no longer with us. In 1983, the stately building collapsed in a heap of dust and smoke, in the words of one observer, “to the thud of 100 pounds of well-placed explosives.” Art Oveson visits the Newhouse a few times in City of Saints, because the hotel also doubled as an office complex. Art goes there hoping to find a prime suspect in the Pfalzgraf murder. A Deseret News editorial described the Newhouse thusly: “Although it was a beautiful hotel … it was never really built the way its founder had planned. The 13th floor, some wings and the fancy towers and flagged minarets to top the building were left off. For several years, the windows were without glass. Eventually the building was finished in more modest style.”